Commonplace Thoughts of a Residual Welshman: When One Notices Grammar

Your life can really be wrecked by having good grammar.  How? There are only three ways, not ten, like last week’s blog. So, this blog will be shorter.

  1. The Grammar Grammatical Annoyer.  That’s right. You’ve known them. These are the people who will correct you when you’re engaging in Umgangschprache.  Not that they know what Umgangschprache is.  Of course not, because they’ve spent all their time refining their English grammar, not learning German. They are like people who brush their teeth so often that they have receding gums.  Or people who comb their hair so much that it’s perfectly kempt but their hair is naturally (too) thin owing to the repetitions of combing. Or, worse. Those people who have perfectly groomed dogs that look just like them. And, by the way, the people are perfectly groomed, too. And they walk their dogs in the park and the dog’s leash and collar and sometimes even little doggy-jacket are color-coordinated with that of their perfectly groomed master.  You get the idea.  These people are like fetish people. Toe fetish people, who crave sucking on your toes.  Not that there is no room in the world for such people—I just don’t want them sucking my toes, that’s all.  Fortunately, politically correct people (who are by now horrified, if they are still reading) have supplanted a lot of the Annoyers, because they are actually more annoying than the Annoyers.  And you can thank God for the PC folks, if you’re a grammar Annoyer, to do which (i.e. thanking God) is probably not PC.
  • The Grammar Observers.  Okay, say you’re lucky enough not to be an Annoyer. There is also the category of Grammar Observer. These are what you might call grammar voyeurs. They are like people with voracious sexual appetites who have decided to take holy orders, and now have to suppress their desires.  On the surface of this, it sounds innocent enough. But these are really people who notice bad grammar and simply stuff the urge to correct it deep, deep down in their souls. They are deeply troubled individuals. It’s not that they want to suck your toes, exactly, but they would love at least to see what your foot looks like without a shoe, or even better, without a sock. Not that they would suck it or even touch it; but they would want to, really, really want to. Okay, that’s weird, but that’s these people. They are deeply suppressed, and most of them wind up in therapy at some point.
  • The Grammar Whizzes.  This one is less likely to wreck your life per se than the first two, but it can. These people are better than your computer at grammar. More to the point: they are better than their own computers. They actually hate grammar/spell check—they turn it off because it is too often wrong. (And, just so you know, the grammar/spell check feature is only wrong once per 100,000 words, on average.) But that is simply “too often” for the Whizzes. When they find an “error” in the grammar/spell check, they actually write a letter to Microsoft. If there are any “errors” in the response—and I put quote marks around the word because they are not necessarily errors per se—they circle them and sent the letter back to the writer of the letter. That’s their favorite thing in the world to do. These folks are weird.  Forget the toes. Forget the socks. Forget the analogy. These Whizzes have some kind of power grab fetish, and they use grammar to get their jollies.

So how can noticing other people’s grammar ruin your life?  If you’re in category one to three, you need some help. You need therapeutically to write a grammatically incorrect sentence.  You need to listen to country music and try to like it—for there are many infelicitous moments, grammatically speaking, in country music. Probably purposefully so, by the way, but infelicitous, nonetheless.

So, what’s the deal? Speak bad, lighten up, relax. The computer will fix you’re grammare. Works for me.

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